Philadelphia Flyers

Unlike his dad, Cayden Primeau pursuing NHL dreams as a goalie

Unlike his dad, Cayden Primeau pursuing NHL dreams as a goalie

BUFFALO, N.Y. — If Keith Primeau had his way, his son Cayden would've learned how to skate and the basics of the game before making a decision to play goal. However, from a young age, Cayden Primeau insisted he'd don the pads and tend the net, a decision he doesn't regret today.

"He was pretty hesitant at first," Cayden Primeau recalled at the recent NHL Scouting Combine. "I was just relentless and persistent — he just finally caved in and I've stuck with it ever since."

A veteran of 15 NHL seasons, including parts of six in Philly, Keith Primeau was outnumbered when it came to his youngest son's wishes to be a goalie.

"I was of the mindset that you need to learn to skate and play the game a little bit first," the former Flyers captain said. "Then if you still have an interest in playing goal, then you could play goal.

"But right from Day 1 he wanted to be a goaltender and at my wife's wishes and against my better judgment, I allowed him to put pads on. Right from the first day, he was able to stop a puck, too, so there wasn't much chance I was going to get him out of the net."

As Cayden Primeau prepares to take the next step in his hockey career — the 17-year-old is the sixth-ranked goaltender in ISS Hockey's 2017 draft guide — Keith Primeau still doesn't know where the passion for the position came from.

"Right from the beginning, he wanted to play goal. It wasn't like at the time he was watching Brian Boucher and saying, 'I want to emulate Brian Boucher,'" said Keith Primeau, whose younger brother, Wayne Primeau, also enjoyed a lengthy career as a center in the NHL. "I did some television work a few years ago and I was asking Marty Turco and Kevin Weeks — they were sitting on the panel with me — I'm a player, I know how to train as a player, I don't know goalie-specific stuff and so he's been able to lean on other people who are goaltenders or of that profession."

Born in Voorhees, New Jersey, Cayden Primeau spent this past season playing for the Lincoln Stars of the USHL, where he posted a 14-11-1 record to go along with a 3.16 goals-against average and an .895 save percentage.

The 6-foot-1, 186-pound puck stopper is a butterfly-style goaltender that moves well and does a good job of using his edges.

Scouts say Primeau has very good hockey sense and feel for the game. He plays his angles well and tracks the puck through traffic well.

"Tall, lanky goalie with long limbs — has trouble catching with his glove," ISS Hockey scout Brent Parker said. "Strong post-to-post. When playing paddle down, he maintains good size and positioning.

"Rebound control was poor on his blocker side with both blocker and pads. Good balance in both the stand-up and butterfly positions. Plays at the top of his crease. Plays angles well and good overall positioning. Lots of upside."

With his dad being a member of the Flyers, Primeau said he often watched Steve Mason closely, but when it comes to modeling his game, he tries to emulate Nashville Predators netminder Pekka Rinne.

"Always trying to take things from him and try to implement them into my own game," Primeau said. "I like to do that with a bunch of other goalies, but my favorite is probably Pekka Rinne.

"I like that he uses his athleticism to his advantage, I like how he's aggressive and makes it challenging for shooters."

Primeau hopes to one day follow his dad's footsteps to the NHL, but he won't be taking the same route. Keith Primeau spent three seasons in the Ontario Hockey League before turning pro during the 1990-91 season.

The OHL's Mississauga Steelheads own Cayden Primeau's rights, but he's chosen to go the college route and will spend next season at Northeastern.

"College hockey in Boston, hockey alone in Boston, is just one thing in itself and then when I started talking to Northeastern, I went to visit the campus, it was beautiful and I loved it, so I felt like it was the right fit," said Cayden, whose cousin, Mason Primeau, recently committed to the OHL's Guelph Storm.

"Obviously the OHL is a great route, but for me personally, I believe college is the best route."

Primeau will have a familiar face on the team next season as Nolan Stevens, the son of former Flyers coach John Stevens, is expected to return for a fourth season with the Huskies.

Keith Primeau was the third overall selection of the Detroit Red Wings 27 years ago — an experience he remembers like it was yesterday. Waiting for his name to be called at BC Place Stadium, Primeau was certain he was going to the Vancouver Canucks.

"I knew that Quebec was going to take Owen Nolan and just from my conversations with Pat Quinn, I felt real strongly that I was going to Vancouver," Primeau recalled of his discussions with the late Flyers coach.

"I guess that's the one variable that you can't control. Until your name is called, everybody sits there anxiously waiting for that moment. It's exciting, but at the same time, nerve-racking."

The Flyers have selected four goaltenders over the past two NHL drafts, including Carter Hart in the second round (48th overall) last year, so the chances Cayden ends up with the Flyers are likely slim, but Keith's advice for his son heading into the draft June 23-24 in Chicago is simple.

"We all know this is just the first step," Keith said. "There's a long road to go, the work begins after the draft. Just enjoy the experience. Don't get caught up too much in where you're drafted, be excited about where you go and be ready to just take on the next challenge."

NHL Notes: Devils lose Travis Zajac for 4-6 months with pectoral injury

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NHL Notes: Devils lose Travis Zajac for 4-6 months with pectoral injury

NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Devils have lost top center Travis Zajac for four to six months with a pectoral injury.

Devils executive vice president and general manager Ray Shero announced that Zajac had surgery to repair the pectoral muscle on Thursday.

Shero said the Zajac was hurt last week during offseason training.

Dr. Jonathan L. Glashow performed the surgery and estimated that Zajac's recovery time could last until February. The season starts in October.

The 32-year-old Zajac had 14 goals and 31 assists last season. He has 155 career goals and 280 assists. He has played for the Devils since the 2006-07 season.

The 20th overall pick in the 2004 NHL Draft, Zajac signed an eight-year, $46 million contract in 2013.

Sabres sign Zemgus Girgensons to 2-year deal

Sabres: Team signs forward Girgensons to 2-year deal
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Sabres have signed forward Zemgus Girgensons to a two-year contract.

The team announced the deal Thursday that carries an average value of $1.6 million.

Girgensons, from Latvia, is the last of the Sabres' restricted free agents to sign with the team. Buffalo's first-round pick in 2012 has 37 goals and 49 assists in 277 career games over four seasons.

He skated in a career-best 75 games last season after signing a one-year extension last September.

NHL Notes: Oilers sign star Leon Draisaitl to mega 8-year contract

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NHL Notes: Oilers sign star Leon Draisaitl to mega 8-year contract

EDMONTON, Alberta -- The Edmonton Oilers have signed center Leon Draisaitl to an eight-year contract extension with an average annual value of $8.5 million.

The extension runs through the 2024-25 season, similar to the eight-year, $100-million extension superstar captain Connor McDavid signed with the team in July.

With the signings, the Oilers are banking on McDavid and Draisaitl providing a potent one-two punch for the team as it looks to build on last season's return to the playoffs after a decade of futility.

Draisaitl, a 21-year-old German, had 77 points (29 goals, 48 assists) last season, his third in the NHL.

He finished eighth among NHL scorers, and second on the Oilers behind McDavid.

He led the Oilers in scoring during the 2017 playoffs, posting 16 points (six goals, 10 assists) in 13 games.

Draisaitl was selected third overall by the Oilers at the 2015 draft (see full story).

Avalanche: Hobey Baker winner Butcher now free agent
College hockey's top player is an NHL free agent after former University of Denver defenseman Will Butcher allowed a deadline to pass without signing with the Colorado Avalanche.

The Avalanche selected Butcher in the fifth round of the 2013 draft and had until Tuesday to sign the Hobey Baker Award winner who led Denver to a national championship in April.

A person with direct knowledge of the discussions told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Butcher already has had discussions with the Buffalo Sabres, New Jersey Devils and NHL-expansion Vegas Golden Knights. The person said Butcher has not yet narrowed his list, and is also talking with other teams.

The person spoke to the AP on the condition of anonymity because the talks are private.

The Denver Post first reported the three specific teams expressing interest in Butcher (see full story).

Wild: Cullen comes home for 21st NHL season
The Minnesota Wild and center Matt Cullen have agreed to a one-year, $1 million contract, bringing him back to his home state for a 21st season in the NHL.

The Wild announced the deal, which includes $700,000 in potential performance bonuses, on Wednesday.

Cullen played the last two years with Pittsburgh, winning consecutive Stanley Cups with the Penguins. He played three seasons for the Wild from 2010-13, his first return to Minnesota since launching his career at Moorhead High School and St. Cloud State.

Cullen, who will turn 41 on Nov. 2, had 13 goals and 18 assists in 72 games in 2016-17 for the Penguins, plus two goals and seven assists in 25 playoff games. He has played in 1,366 career regular season games, the sixth-most among active players (see full story).